Why does everyone want life so fucking LOUD?!?!?!
Is the world going deaf or is my hearing becoming sharper somehow? Everyday transactions seem to have risen a decimal pitch. I thought it might be because I live in Los Angeles, but I was wrong. Volumes are rising wherever there are corporations, from the cow towns of Colorado to the suburbs of Dallas.
Everywhere I go, there is constant music playing. I don’t dislike music. But I find it unbearably disruptive to my life when it’s not the sole experience I’ve set aside time to be appreciating. I want to have lunch with my brother without shouting at one another above the café’s Pandora station. I want to go to my best friend’s birthday party without my ears ringing afterward. I want to just sit at home and read a book without neighbors on all sides blaring everything from Russian techno to suicidal bath playlists. Why do people feel the need to have a constant soundtrack to every moment of their day? Our ears are not wired for this much unnatural sound at such extraordinary pitch. I wonder when—if—evolution will protect our ear drums from the increasing volume of life.
It’s gone beyond music.
I walked into Chipotle the other day and thought I’d walked into the sushi bar at Katsuya.
“HELLO!” all the burri-stas greeted me at once, at octaves that should only be permissible during soccer games and emergencies. My adrenal glands were convinced a car was about to follow me through the glass door. I ducked so hard my purse fell off my shoulder. When I registered the shouters were smiling at me like I was the President on a surprise visit, I was further confused. Had they pulled a prank on me? Sorry, did I know one of them? Was Liam Hemsworth behind me?
After a few awkward seconds of their plastered smiles at my bewildered face, I pulled myself together and ordered a quesedilla. (Yep, you can order quesedillas at Chipotle, even though they’re not on the menu.) I sat at a booth table with my friend and we fought to maintain the flow of our conversation every time another person walked through the door.
“Yeah, my sister’s not doing so well, she’s—“
Calm down, heart, it’s just their mandatory salutation.
“Sorry, where was I?”
“You were saying something about your sister going through a hard ti—“
Then there are the obnoxious customer service techniques that are failing royally if they’re trying to personalize their business approach. I want to go to my bank and not have to answer over-projected, “How-is-your-day-going?!” mantras three times before I even get in line. I can just see the email from corporate to the branch manager instructing the employees to be therapists as well as tellers. You think I believe you give a shit about my morning traffic? You think I believe you care about the other errands I have to do later? Please, stop wasting our time, because I’m not going to pretend back. I’m not going to insult you with artificial pleasantries in the name of trying to make the world and our mundane business transactions a happier place. Life does not need to be brimming with enthusiasm at all times. Just cash my check, please, and let’s agree not to be assholes. It’s that simple. If you feel like smiling, smile, but don’t yell disingenuous care at me.
Retail stores are another area where disturbing customer relations reign. I’d like to buy a new dress without every single person working the floor greeting me like a vulture in disguise.
“That looks so much better on, hi, how is your day. Can I start a room for you?”
Thank goodness for private fitting rooms. But alas, most places have taken out your private mirror. Now you must part the blessed curtain dimming out the Rihanna remix and face the barrage of fake compliments that come your way while you’re just trying to make sure all the straps are where they should be.
“That looks amaaaaaaay-zing on you, try this one on,” says a salesperson, shoving a hanger into my hands. I don’t even see that it’s a cotton maxi I’d never wear in a million years because I’m gaping at the $499.99 price tag. “Has anyone told you you look like a young Catherine Zeta-Jonnnnez?”
What am I supposed to say? Thanks? What I want to say is shut up with your fake flattery and stop clanging more hangers of shit I don’t want to try on outside my curtain. No, I’m not coming out to show you. No, I don’t need the high heels to try on with it. No, I don’t need help with the zipper. No, I did not find everything I need, because what I need is a store that’s not run by commission-starved champions of ego-boosting so I can make a decision about what dress I want to buy in peace. Yes, I liked the first one I tried on, but no, now I’m not even gonna buy it here because you’re so pushy I can hardly wait to put my shoes back on before I bolt out the door. I’ll buy it online before I’m assaulted by one more hanger. Trust me, if I needed your help, I would have asked you politely.
I get that commissioners need to eat. But there’s a way to be helpful without being assaulting. I get that banks are trying to “brighten the customer’s day,” but is it working? I know I leave feeling confused as to whether I’m seeing a loan advisor or a life coach. The awkwardness of forced mutual interest in disguise of authenticity compelled me to finally switch to a branchless bank. Most people like music, I get that, too, but must we dine at nightclub volumes?
Perhaps the bigger question is, why are we so afraid of quiet?
We need to stop being forced to be loud and happy. We are living in cultural denial of our stress, our heartaches, and our need for peace. I just wanna make a peaceful transaction, people. There is a time and place for merry-making, and a time and place for business. Our cheeks need a rest from all the bullshit grins we’re beaming at each other, like life is that fucking great all the time. It’s cheapening the times someone might actually be giving me a real smile. I don’t want to become desensitized to human kindness, politeness, and delight. Don’t act like you’re delighted to see me, because you’re not, any more than I am delighted to see you. We can be pleasant without being cheerleaders about it. We can be professional without being buddy-buddy. I don’t want to see a smile and cringe.